Thursday, August 14, 2008

Natural History by E.B. White

Natural History

The spider, dropping down from twig,
Unfolds a plan of her devising,
A thin premeditated rig
To use in rising.

And all that journey down through space,
In cool descent and loyal hearted,
She spins a ladder to the place
From where she started.

Thus I, gone forth as spiders do
In spider's web a truth discerning,
Attach one silken thread to you
For my returning.
-- E. B. White

Long before he wrote Charlotte's Web , E. B. White wrote this poem as a love note to his wife. I heard it on NPR's In Character Podcast, and was very impressed. I knew he could write excellent prose, but I didn't know he was a poet too. Another part of the podcast I thought was touching was that when he read the book aloud for the audio version, it took him seventeen tries to get through Charlotte's death scene without breaking down in tears.

When asked whether kids have a problem with Charlotte dying, they said, "No, it's the adults that do. The kids just ride the wave." I thought about why it was okay for Charlotte to die, and realized that she knew from the start how much time she had on this earth (relatively). She didn't sacrifice her life for Wilbur. Nobody killed her. She would have died whether she was a great friend to him or not. There was no way to save her life, but she could save his, and so she did. She took the time she had, and made it matter. The world was a better place because she was in it. That's why it's okay for her to die -- 'cause everybody dies sometime. She showed us that we can decide what to do with the time we have.

And what I'm going to do with the time I have right now while the baby is asleep is tell you all about how Elizabeth is doing. It's been nearly four weeks since I did a blog post about her, and boy has it been eventful!

We've spent a lot of time at Great Grandma Helen Stay's house, and though Elizabeth is not thrilled with sleeping away from her own crib, she does like several things at Grandma's house. First, there's the clocks. She likes watching the pendulums swing and listening to them tick (if I sit her in front of the grandfather clock, she can see her reflection in the pendulum). She gets very excited when they chime, especially if she happens to see the cuckoo bird.

Then there's the real birds. Elizabeth loves to sit and look out the big glass sliding door and watch the birds come to Grandma's bird feeder. She is also often content just to look at the flowers and the wind in the trees. One day, while we were birdwatching, a hawk swooped down and tried to catch one of the sparrows, but missed. He flew over and sat on the wall, glaring at everyone and looking very displeased for a few minutes before he flew away. Grandma gets doves, sparrows, hummingbirds, and some pretty reddish and yellowish little birds that might be some kind of finch or tanager. None of these birds like to eat the big pieces of corn in the birdseed, so they just toss it down onto the ground, and make a big mess with it.

Elizabeth is also enthralled with Grandma's walker. It's shiny and red and made of metal pipes with brake cables running down the side and it has screws poking out here and there for interesting sucking. Best of all, it's got plenty of handholds for her to stand next to it and practice her balance. Sometimes she'll just stand there for twenty minutes or more, bouncing and grabbing and sucking. It's pretty funny.

We've been having fun at the park with our ward's weekly playdate. She tried the swing for the first time, and seemed to enjoy it well enough. She was pretty tired that day, so she looked like she was in a trance in the swing. She's also getting big enough to entertain herself on a blanket on the ground, and interact with some of the other kids. All in all, she likes going outside, and taking walks in her stroller. Peter and I take her out for a walk nearly every evening before bedtime.

Another thing that has Elizabeth enthralled is electronics. From cell phones to cameras, to remote controls, to computers, Peter and I have a lot of them, and use them frequently, and Elizabeth WANTS her share. I resisted at first, but then I realized that it's a little silly to give her a toy rotary telephone, but not a toy cellphone. So I got one for her and she's THRILLED! She especially likes it when she accidentally pushes the buttons and it makes noise. I also got tired of trying to distract her from Daddy's mouse, so I took an old broken one, shortened the cord (because she LOVES cords) and gave it to her for her very own. It's pretty funny how happy it makes her. With the success of those two toys, I've requested a keyboard from freecycle, and when I pick that up and clean it, she'll be set for life! (or at least a few more months)

Elizabeth was far grumpier than usual on the 4th and 5th at Grandma's house. On July 8th, I figured out why. She's teething! Her first tooth cut through on the bottom left, with the right one following a few days later. The sore gums make it hard for her to eat and sleep sometimes, but she's mostly good natured about it. Though she fights me when I want to put Oragel on them (since I only do it when it hurts the most and she can't be calmed any other way), she does look surprised and calms down within seconds. It's hard to get a photo of the little tooth nub, but if you look very closely, you can kind of see it here.

On the food front, she's still not very interested in eating from a spoon. I think that she doesn't like it coming near her sore gums. When I offer it, she generally clamps her mouth shut and turns up her nose. Sometimes, if I'm eating something, she'll want a bite, and lately she's been kind of impressed with shaved ice from frozen baby food, but only in small amounts. I bought some baby cereal puffs that kind of melt in your mouth, and she likes to pick them up (with a pincer grasp no less) and maneuver them to her mouth.

Elizabeth's biggest accomplishment lately though is learning to crawl. She's been trying hard to figure it out for months, and she finally got it! The videos below show the day she first made real progress (I got the camera out after her first feat, and she wouldn't do it again) and a day or two later when she was getting good at it (I found a little tripod for my camera at the dollar store, and it makes this last video so much nicer to watch). She still tends to flop down on her tummy after each movement, but she's getting faster and stronger, and it's not safe to leave her in the middle of the floor anymore.

On the 13th, when I was at Grandma's house, showing off her new tricks, Elizabeth crawled over to get something, then pushed up and sat back on her legs to get back to a sitting position! I had been watching for this move, because she often goes from sitting to almost crawling and back again, but she hadn't gotten her legs back underneath her after being on her belly before. She's getting so smart! It's like once the ball started rolling, she could just keep learning new things. I have a video of this, but she doesn't start doing it till about half way through, so you may want to skip the first bit which is not so interesting. The other video, which I took the same day, has Grandma's caregiver, Fawn, making noises to make Elizabeth laugh.

Well, that's it for today! BTW, there's more pictures over at my picasa page.


  1. Wow, teething already! Kate didn't cut any teeth till she was a year old (though she certainly complained about it enough ahead of time)!

  2. Those were great videos. I especially liked the little celebratory kick Elizabeth gives when she gets the music box open. She is adorable and rather early for this, I think.

  3. I agree! Those were great videos. How precious that you have these first attempts recorded. Now that she can sit up so well, it looks like she's been doing it forever. She will love seeing these when she's older.

    Love, Kathey